Here is a recap of the stories that appeared last week at Science-Based Medicine, a multi-author skeptical blog that separates the science from the woo in medicine.


Ann Coulter says: Radiation is good for you! (David Gorski) In a blisteringly ignorant column, Ann Coulter tries to persuade her readers not to be concerned about radiation from the Fukushima disaster because she thinks radiation is good for you. Her comments are based on a misunderstanding of hormesis, a distortion of the scientific evidence, and a misrepresentation of the legitimate controversy about whether there is a “safe” threshold below which radiation is harmless.

Herbal Remedies, Street Drugs, and Pharmacology (Harriet Hall) Most of the arguments in favor of herbal remedies are fallacious. They are like street drugs: you don’t know what you’re getting. Plants can be therapeutic, but the science of pharmacology developed out of the need to identify and purify the active ingredients.

CAM and Evidence-Based Medicine (Steven Novella) Mark Tonelli advocates an alternative to evidence-based medical care that would incorporate patient values, personal experience, and other ways of knowing. His criticism of evidence-based medicine is misguided and amounts to special pleading for CAM; Dr. Novella explains why.

Asian Bear Bile Remedies: Traditional Medicine or Barbarism? (Ben Kavoussi) Traditional Chinese medicine continues to offer bear products like bear bile despite legal prohibitions. This involves unconscionable cruelty to animals. Horrific examples are given, with disturbing photos.

How popular is acupuncture? (Brennen McKenzie) Advocates of CAM claim it is widely used and growing rapidly. Surveys show otherwise, especially for acupuncture. Only 6.5% of Americans have ever tried acupuncture. Similarly low percentages are reported even from Asia; the Chinese clearly prefer Western scientific medicine to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).